Frank Viola’s The Letters of Marvin Snurdley

Over the last month or so, I’ve been listening to Frank Viola‘s Pagan Christianity: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices via Audible on my 10k runs. The entire book has been utterly fascinating, particularly for someone like me who saw quite a bit of this over the years but could never quite give it voice.

The story of the Letters of Marvin Snurdley was a particularly fascinating example found in Chapter 11 (of 12), but the only place I could find it online was on a blog called “Common Sense Atheism“, and since they go on to attack Christianity in general, I thought I would copy it here with no commentary other than these notes and a strong recommendation to acquire and study this book for yourself. The story, in case it isn’t clear, is a direct examination of exactly what happened to form the largest single piece of the New Testament: The Pauline Epistles. Frank then does a great job throughout the rest of the chapter of examining and explaining why the issues presented in the story of the Letters of Marvin Snurdley unfortunately affect us all in the real world.

Marvin Snurdly is a world-renowned marital counselor. In his twenty-year career as a marriage therapist, Marvin has counseled thousands of troubled couples. He has an Internet presence. Each day hundreds of couples write letters to Marvin about their marital sob stories. The letters come from all over the globe. And Marvin answers them all.

A hundred years pass, and Marvin Snurdly is resting peacefully in his grave. He has a great-great-grandson named Fielding Melish. Fielding decides to recover the lost letters of his great great grandfather. But Fielding can find only thirteen of Marvin’s letters…

These letters were all written within a twenty-year time frame: from 1980 to 2000. Fielding Melish plans to compile these letters into a volume. But there is something interesting about the way Marvin wrote his letters that makes Fielding’s task somewhat difficult. First, Marvin had an annoying habit of never dating his letters. No days, months, or years appear on any of the thirteen letters. Second, the letters only portray half the conversation. The initial letters written to Marvin that provoked his responses no longer exist. Consequently, the only way to understand the backdrop of each of Marvin’s letters is by reconstructing the marital situation from Marvin’s response.

Each letter was written at a different time, to people in a different culture, about a different problem. For example, in 1985, Marvin wrote a letter to Paul and Sally from Virginia, who were experiencing sexual problems early in their marriage. In 1990, Marvin wrote a letter to Jethro and Matilda from Australia, who were having problems with their children. In 1995, Marvin wrote a letter to a wife from Mexico who was experiencing a midlife crisis. Unfortunately, Fielding has no way of knowing when the letters were written.

Take note: twenty years – thirteen letters – all written to different people at different times in different cultures – all experiencing different problems.

It is Fielding Melish’s desire to put these thirteen letters in chronological order. But without the dates, he cannot do this. So Fielding puts them in the order of descending length. That is, he takes the longest letter that Marvin wrote and puts it first. He puts Marvin’s second longest letter after that. He takes the third longest and puts it third. The compilation ends with the shortest letter that Marvin penned. The thirteen letters are arranged, not chronologically, but by their length.

The volume hits the presses and becomes an overnight best seller.
One hundred years pass, and The Collected Works of Marvin Snurdly compiled by Fielding Melish stands the test of time. The work is still very popular. Another one hundred years pass, and this volume is being used copiously throughout the Western world.

The book is translated into dozens of languages. Marriage counselors quote it left and right. Universities employ it in their sociology classes. It is so widely used that someone gets a bright idea on how to make the volume easier to quote and handle. What is that idea? It is to divide Marvin’s letters into chapters and numbered sentences (or verses). So chapters and verses are added to The Collected Works of Marvin Snurdly.

But by adding chapter and verse to these once living letters, something changes that goes unnoticed. The letters lose their personal touch. Instead, they take on the texture of a manual. Different sociologists begin writing books about marriage and the family. Their main source? The Collected Works of Marvin Snurdly. Pick up any book in the twenty-fourth century on the subject of marriage, and you will find the author quoting chapters and verses from Marvin’s letters.
It usually looks like this: In making a particular point, an author will quote a verse from Marvin’s letter written to Paul and Sally. The author will then lift another verse from the letter written to Jethro and Matilda. He will extract another verse from another letter. Then he will sew these three verses together and upon them he will build his particular marital philosophy.

Virtually every sociologist and marital therapist that authors a book on marriage does the same thing. Yet the irony is this: Each of these authors frequently contradicts the others, even though they are all using the same source!

But that is not all. Not only have Marvin’s letters been turned into cold prose when they were originally living, breathing epistles to real people in real places, they have become a weapon in the hands of agenda-driven men. Not a few authors on marriage begin employing isolated proof texts from Marvin’s work to hammer away at those who disagree with their marital philosophy.

Lexington County SC Sheriff Candidates and the “Officer Safety” Constitutional Exception

Over the past couple of weeks, I have posed a simple question to three of the candidates for the Lexington County Sheriff election one week from today, on March 3, 2015.

That question?

What is your response to this article? I will be blunt: I am putting this question to all three contenders for my vote (another has already shown his answer by shooting a completely innocent man while running in this race), and I will determine my vote based on the responses to this question.

“This article” being titled “No ‘Officer Safety’ Exception to the Constitution” and written by three men who are all current or former law enforcement officers, two of whom now work in more academic settings.

It states in part:

So, where does one find the officer safety exception to the Constitution? Generally speaking, it doesn’t exist. Generally, the rights of the people trump the rights of an officer to be guaranteed a safe outcome in dangerous situations. This can be an uncomfortable truth, but to ignore it is to operate in a virtual reality that only exists in one’s own mind. The truth is law enforcement is a hazardous undertaking and there is nothing that can be done to eliminate all of its physical risks.
If the choice is between feeling safer by violating someone’s Constitutional rights or taking calculated risks while honoring our oath, the pledge we made when our badges found their home on our chests is supposed to win every time. As in military service, doing our duty and following lawful orders will regularly put us at heightened physical risk.

One candidate, Justin Britt, provided his answer on August 5, 2014 when he shot an unarmed suspect while already running in this race. (First paragraph on page 3.)

Of the three candidates that I posed the question to, only two responded while the third shut down after I told him I am an admin at the Cop Block South Carolina page.

Ed Felix responded:

Ed Felix for Sheriff agrees with this article and reminds officers that they are not “paramilitary units”. They are public servants.

Mr. Felix was also the only candidate to allow me to post on their page, and this was his response there:

First. Thank you Jeff for your question. Second. My apologies for taking so long to answer. I put everything aside on Sundays to attend church and spend time with my family. Third. I want you to take into considerations my answers against the backdrop of the fact that I have been fired upon several times, had attempts to cut me, stab me, and on one occasion, a kitchen floor was mopped with my body after I asked someone to “please turn the music down”. As you probably know, I was an instructor at the SC Criminal Justice Academy (police academy) for a little over 14 years. One of the many courses I taught was “officer safety and survival”. I also head the department of Criminal Justice and Security at the University of Phoenix, Columbia Ground Campus, SC. In that program, I make it my business to teach the very first core class, “Introduction to Criminal Justice” (sophomores). My reason for doing that is to start the students with the correct tone as we begin speaking about the “Law and Order Model”, the “Individual Freedoms Model”, and most importantly, the application of the “Bill Of Rights” of our Constitution. These issues come up again in the “Police Theories and Practices” course and the “Criminal Law” (juniors) class, which I also teach. I have to say that I have a very professional cadre of professors that I supervise which follow my lead on these issues. They include longtime practitioners of criminal justice with diverse backgrounds to include retirees and attorneys. While at the police academy, I taught the “Terry Stop” as it should be taught. In the Terry vs. Ohio case the officer observed suspicious behavior leading him to believe that an “armed robbery” was about to take place. The Supreme Court in its decision made it clear that it should be a two-step process and that both had to be justified. The “Stop” had to be justified and the “Frisk” had to be justified separately. I reminded students that we were not “paramilitary” but “quasy military” (use rank and structure) as an organization and the overarching goal is to serve not to control the population. Unfortunately, after the academy law enforcement agencies change the Mantra to “officer safety above all else” even the constitutional rights of citizens. What I have seen is that lazy officers use it as a scapegoat to justify their actions, some of which could be suspicious. Truest me when I say that we heard all kinds of stories at the academy. The proactive and mentally and physically fit officer relies less on excuses and more on good observations and methods. “Awareness and self-discipline are the first lines of defense”, said the author of the article (paragraph 12). Two more things: 1. When I taught at the Police Chief School (mentioned in one of my opponets card) I reminded leaders of the very simple principle that “As they do, so will their subordinates”. This concept is universal in the education of leaders in any discipline. 2. Of all of the candidates in this race I am the only one who has had a case appealed all of the way to the SC State Supreme Court and upheld on its constititionality. It involved trafficking in drugs. As I mentioned in the backdrop (third above) for my answers, “Officer Safety” is near and dear to my heart, but that is only because the Constitution and the Bill Of Rights is already occupying my heart. I am a member of the “Constitutional Sheriff and Peace Officers Association and have been endorsed by Sheriff Richard Mack, Director. This is non-partisan association that stands by the Constitution as the ultimate test of service. http://cspoa.org/ Feel free to call or email me with any concerns you may have. Be safe. Edfelix803@gmail.com 803-530-9232 PS. Sorry for the length

Jay Koon twice prevented me from asking the question on his FB page, but after the second time finally responded to my private FB message. (Proof of the second one available in the pics below.)

This was his response:

Mr. Sexton
I agree with the article’s mention of training. We must properly train out officers on proper interaction with our citizens. I know the courts have ruled that officers can not knowingly place themselves in harms way and then justify force. I am a strong believer in community policing and that will not change if I am elected
Jay

When I asked him to provide clarification on his statement that courts have ruled that officers can not knowingly place themselves in harms way, a ruling that despite my police accountability activism I had never heard of, he never responded. It has been 6 days since I asked for clarification.

Dennis Tyndall blocks all posts to his page apparently, my own included. His first response to the question was to say that my post showed on his page (it never did publicly) and that he wasn’t the candidate who shot a person. He then said of the article:

I read the article and thought it was very interesting. Please let me know what your question is specifically. Or do you just want my reaction to the article as a whole?

I responded that I knew the man who shot someone wasn’t him, that it was Justin Britt, and that I was looking for his reaction to the article as a whole. He then responded that he was still Chief in West Columbia and asked if I minded if he re-read the article that night before responding. I agreed and asked him for a quote I could publish, and he asked where I would publish. At this point, I revealed to him that I am an admin at Cop Block South Carolina… and I never heard from him again. All correspondence I have from him was from Monday, Feb 16, and it is all in the images below.

Based on these responses, my vote is clear:

One week from right now, on Tuesday, March 3, I will be voting for Ed Felix for Lexington County Sheriff. He is the only one who can be trusted to work to end the plague of police violence that is killing thousands of Americans every year and sending untold numbers more to the hospitals.

Pics:
Koon post (Second time):
KoonOfficerSafetyExceptionQuestion

FB Email Conversation with Dennis Tyndall:
Tyndall1

Tyndall2

Tyndall3

Tyndall4

#1100MilesInRemembrance: Miles 12-14: Rocendo Arias, Robert Coleman, and Michael Estrada

Still adjusting to this whole moving 3+ miles *every day* thing, so still going a bit slow – not helped by a blister that started forming yesterday, and certainly not helped by the gym being so frakkin packed!

Today, I ran in memory of Rocendo Arias of Yakima, WA. Arias was sitting peacefully in his car assembling an airsoft gun when a cop opened his passenger door and shot him 4 times, once in the head. Another cop, a State Trooper, had seen the car earlier in the hour and simply assumed the man was sleeping. The reports are unclear as to what “crime” the murdering cop even suspected Arias of doing. Barely 24 hours before Arias was murdered, agents from another organization in the same County murdered another man, Jesse J Humphrey, in a trailer less than 10 miles away.

I also ran in memory of Robert Coleman of Flowery Branch, GA, the first fellow Georgian on this journey. Coleman was suspected of stabbing someone at a party earlier in the evening, but when cops arrived neither he nor the victim were at the place of the crime. They responded to a burglary call three blocks away, where they encountered and murdered Coleman. Not that neither stabbing nor burglary are capital offenses in Georgia.

And I ran in memory of Michael Estrada of Sierra Vista, AZ. According to the reports, Estrada was holding a machete in the front yard of a location cops responded to due to a hang up 911 call. The cops claim he made “aggressive statements” and began walking toward one of the officers, when Michael Rathmann shot Estrada. I’ve seen no video of this encounter, so we have no way of knowing what the “aggressive statements” were, but I also know of no law that allows people to be murdered for mere statements or even walking towards someone.

Sources:
From http://www.kimatv.com/news/local/Man-shot-by-Yakima-police-was-holding-an-Airsoft-gun–238986161.html regarding Rocendo Arias:

YAKIMA, Wash. — New details have come to light in this weekend’s deadly officer-involved shooting outside a Yakima car wash.

YPD said the officer shot and killed Rocendo Arias because he saw him holding a gun in his car. Arias took a bullet to the head.

Investigators said Yakima Police Officer Casey Gilette saw a suspicious car parked at a car wash. After noticing it hadn’t moved for an hour, YPD said Gilette approached Rocendo Arias’s car. First on the driver’s side, then the passenger’s side and opened the door. The officer told investigators he saw Arias holding a gun.

“It appeared that he had some accessories to the handgun that he was trying to install on it or put pieces of this gun together,” said Yakima police Captain Rod Light.

Gilette shot four times, hitting Arias once in the head. YPD Spokesperson Rod Light maintains the officer had reason to react.

“The deceased had the weapon not only in his hand, but he also had his finger on the trigger,” said Light.

However, investigators learned that Arias’ weapon wasn’t a typical gun. It was an Airsoft gun, considered a replica that shoots plastic pellets. While these guns can fire at high velocity, they’re not designed to be lethal. YPD said it’s not clear if Arias pointed the gun at Gilette before the shooting.

“It’s three in the morning,” said Light. “It’s dark and again we haven’t interviewed this officer yet so it’s hard to speculate what he saw.”

Gilette has been with YPD for 14 months and the Toppenish Police Department earlier in his career.

Investigators plan to search Arias’ car to see what happened to the other bullets. Gilette is now on paid administrative leave during the investigation. He will be interviewed later this week.

And from http://www.kimatv.com/home/video/KIMA-obtains-police-dash-cam-video-from-officer-involved-shooting-250261491.html, also regarding Arias:

YAKIMA, Wash. — KIMA has obtained the video and sound recordings of the moments just after a Yakima officer shot and killed a man earlier this year. Action News has also learned more about what police are saying happened in those early morning hours.

We obtained the Yakima Police Department’s report that investigated the shooting as well as video and the calls from the officer’s patrol car. It includes Officer Casey Gillette’s own account and some confusion about when he pulled his gun.

“Three shots fired.
Location?
Unit one calling, shots fired.
Location?
Unit 3 shots fired, suspect is down, shots fired suspect down.”

That’s Officer Casey Gillette’s call to dispatch immediately after he shot and killed Rocendo Arias.

“All available units, 909 East Nob Hill,” from radio dispatch.

KIMA obtained the recording and police dash cam video after filing a public records request with the city of Yakima. You can see one of the first backup officers arrive at the car wash. Dozens show up. They surround the car with guns drawn.

But, you only see the aftermath. Police say there is no video showing how Officer Gillette approached the parked car with Arias inside.
These images from Gillette’s patrol car show he’s out of position to record the fatal confrontation.

In YPD’s incident report, Gillette told investigators he parked that way because he didn’t plan to make an arrest or expect any trouble.
He had gone to the car wash after seeing the car parked there for at least an hour and thought it looked suspicious.

A closer look at the report shows Gillette backtracked on whether he pulled his gun before he opened Arias’ passenger door, or after.
He first told investigators, “I know I had my gun out because I didn’t have to draw it, I mean, It was already right there on him.”
He then gave a different response when asked which hand he used to open the car door, “I don’t believe I had my gun out at that point. There would have been no reason to.”

The report notes it’s common that officers don’t remember drawing their guns in these situations because of the repetition of training.

The report also shows Gillette wasn’t the first to notice Arias’ car.
A state trooper spotted it while she was washing her patrol car.
She says she checked out the scene and assumed the driver was just taking a nap.

A different approach from Officer Gillette, with a very different outcome.

The Yakima County Prosecutor ruled the shooting was justified based on the perceived threat. Prosecutor Jim Hagarty did not respond to our requests for comment today. The attorney for the Rocendo Arias family says the lawsuit against the city of Yakima and YPD for wrongful death is still in process.

From http://www.ajc.com/news/news/breaking-news/shooting-in-lawrenceville-leaves-suspect-dead-offi/nccgt/, regarding Robert Coleman:

Authorities on Monday released the name of the stabbing suspect fatally shot by Gwinnett County police over the weekend. An officer was wounded in the incident.

Robert Coleman, 30, of Flowery Branch, was shot and killed by officers responding to a burglary call Saturday afternoon at a home near Lawrenceville.

Detectives confirmed that the incident was related to a reported stabbing at a nearby home.

No suspect or victim was initially found when officers responded to a stabbing call in the 3600 block of Willow Wood Way around 4 p.m.

Minutes later, officers received a call about a burglary in progress about three blocks away — in the 3800 block of Smokemist Trace. Two officers encountered Coleman while checking the residence and shots were fired, police said.

Coleman died at the scene. One of the two officers was shot in the leg and taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries and later released.

The stabbing victim returned to Willow Wood Way a short time after the related shooting and was transported to a hospital in serious condition. The victim was last reported to be in stable condition.

Witnesses told police that Coleman had attended a party on Willow Wood Way during which the victim was stabbed.

The investigation into the incident is continuing.

Authorities said both officers fired shots during the encounter with Coleman. Both have been placed on administrative leave, as is standard procedure.

From http://www.jrn.com/kgun9/news/Man-killed-in-officer-involved-shootin-238727951.html, regarding Michael Estrada:

SIERRA VISTA, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) – Michael Estrada, 49, was shot during an altercation with a Sierra Vista Police officers early Saturday morning.

Cpl. Scott Borgstadt with Sierra Vista Police tells KGUN9 that 911 operators received a hang-up call at about 3:10 a.m. The operator called the number back to check on the welfare of the residents, and was informed by a male subject that he had dialed a wrong number.

SVPD dispatched two patrol units, to the 1200 block of Paseo San Luis. When the arrived on scene, they found a man in the front yard of the residence.

Estrada began making aggressive statements and started walking toward one of the officers. Officer Michael Rathmann fired his department-issued weapon at Estrada, who sustained multiple gunshot wounds, said Borgstadt.

Estrada was transported to a local area hospital area were he was pronounced deceased.

Detectives are conducting an internal investigation into the shooting in cooperation with the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office.

Per SVPD policy in any officer-involved shooting, Officer Rathmann has been placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation. Officer Rathmann is a 13-year veteran of the Sierra Vista Police Department.

The Christmas War

Yep, it is that time of year again. The time for feelings of peace on earth and good will to men. The time of frenzied last minute materialistic shopping for that trinket that will probably be in the trash can before Easter.

And the time for Christians to get all up in arms over people saying “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas”. Yes, these “Christians” – many of whom claim to be freedom-loving Constitutionalists – want to dictate to both individuals and organizations what they must say at this time of year.

But they face two problems, one governmental and one business, though both truly are the same problem:

Christianity isn’t the only religion in the world, much to many of these would-be dictators’ chagrin.
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The Cult of Christianity

Christianity was founded roughly 2,000 years ago on the shores of a big lake in the Near East that still exists today – the Sea of Galilee. It has its roots in a small town that still exists today in present-day Israel – Bethlehem. Its foundation was made permanent a city of much strife for thousands of years both before and after – Jerusalem.

It started out as a small sect of Judaism that most in its day found humorous at best, blasphemous at worst. A small group of fishermen, tax collectors, whores, and other assorted scum of the earth claimed to have met the Messiah, and that he taught that to live, you must die. He claimed he was God, a claim that makes him (paraphrasing CS Lewis here) either a liar, a lunatic, or LORD.

The Messiah had already drawn large crowds during during his life, but that was nothing new for the era. “Messiah”s of various forms had been rising up for hundreds of years before this one, gaining large crowds during their lives, only to die (usually by execution) and have their names be forgotten in the annals of history.

No, two things made this Messiah different: 1) After his extremely brutal -so brutal that he was no longer recognizable as human- and extremely public -so public that people from thousands of miles away saw it first hand- execution, he was seen by thousands living and breathing, with barely a scar on his body. 2) Because of this resurrection, this Messiah continued to draw large crowds after his death.

But 2,000 years later, his followers have devolved to where many of them – perhaps even most of them – have lost sight of the true Jesus Christ of Nazareth and what he did.

Christianity has become a cult.
Continue reading “The Cult of Christianity”

“Good” Friday?

Apparently there has been an issue within a town in Iowa – Davenport, to be exact. Now, I’ve never heard of Davenport, IA. I know absolutely nothing about them, and probably would never know anything about them had something not flared up out there over the weekend.
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Free Will and Divine Omniscience

I had a Facebook friend overnight put up this statement:

You can’t have free will if God knows what you are going to do, before you do it.

The thing to remember here is that God exists outside of Time, which is a human construct. Therefore, Free Will vs Divine Omniscience becomes a frame of reference issue.

The classic frame of reference example is to look straight out of a train window. You see objects moving, which to you indicates that they are moving and that you are standing still. They, however, see a train moving and that they are standing still.

Which is correct?

It depends on your frame of reference. 😀

Similarly, the issue of Free will vs Divine Omniscience is also a frame of reference issue. Humans can accurately see, and thus know, only the present and past – much like a 180 degree camera on a train that is pointed towards the back of the train. It can see absolutely everything from its point on the train and backwards, but will never see towards the front of the train. Let us further assume that this camera is mounted on a horizontal rack and can move freely across the train side to side.

While the camera is free to move about horizontally all it wants, it will never see the front of the train, no matter how hard it tries. It will only get different views of its present and past, which may dictate the position it choose to be in next. But even in its next position, it will never see the front of the train.

God, however, exists independently of the train, and can see the entire train at once. Thus, He can see what the camera cannot. He can point things out behind the camera and beside the camera, and thus help to point the camera to the next best position, but He will always know exactly what the front of the train looks like, while the camera will not.

Thus, because of frames of reference in regards to Time, Free Will and Divine Omniscience can, indeed, co-exist.

It Wasn’t My Choice, OK????

Those are quite possibly the words that changed my life forever.

I’ve been railing against a group I see as legalists and Pharisees for a couple of days now, and I figured it is time I admit a dirty little secret:

I used to be one.

Much like Saul, I was trained in “church” by some of the best in my community. These men and women came from all walks of life, but all of them had a firm foundation in the Bible and what it said. I learned the Bible with my head long before I ever started applying its principles to my heart. I was one of the best in nearly any Bible drill you could think of. At one point, I could name every single book of the Bible in order without any hesitation at all. I could repeat any fact about it in an instant.

And that level of knowledge about the Bible without its core teachings being in your heart is a very dangerous thing indeed. I insisted everyone live according to its edicts. I was one of those “goody two shoes” kids that everyone makes fun of for carrying a Bible around – eerily similar to Grace Bowman in season 1 of Secret Life of the American Teenager.

I caused SOOOO much pain back then, pain that I didn’t really realize until I finally heard the words in the title.

It was my sophomore year of HS, and me and a then friend were walking the halls after school. I was being very judgmental about the revelation she had let slip that she wasn’t a virgin. Finally, she couldn’t take it any more. “It wasn’t my choice, OK?” She yelled at me as she ran away crying.

She had been raped, and my judgment had destroyed any progress she had made in overcoming it.

I said shortly after the incident that her words had cut me like a hot knife through butter, and they still do – more than a decade later.

I didn’t overcome my legalism in that instant. It would take more mistakes, more pain, more learning. But God finally allowed that head knowledge I had of His Word to become a heart knowledge. It became something so intrinsic to me that I don’t have to pray aloud – I know God hears my every thought. It is as natural to me as moving my arm.

I still screw up all the time. Probably have over the last couple of days with my brothers and sisters.

I get easily upset when I see legalism now, because I know all too well the destruction I caused under it and the destruction that it tried to cause me when those around me lived under it. But I’ve been attacking my brothers and sisters rather harshly – vestiges of my old ways. For that, I do apologize – though I most certainly do NOT apologize for fighting legalism in general, only the animosity I have displayed in that fight. Just because my brothers and sisters are misguided does not mean they are not still my brothers and sisters, and I should treat them as such.

I just wish they fully understood, as I do, how much destruction they are causing among those we are called to be reaching.

Still, that does not excuse my actions over the last couple of days. Just wanted y’all to have an idea where I’m coming from.

Christ Had A Choice – And So Do You

As I grow in my relationship with Christ, and as I grow towards what I know to be my destiny, I occassionally get these “lightning bursts” that to me feel more like electricity, but that Jeremiah once described as a fire burning in his bones that has to get out. They aer always unexpected, always amazing, and always something I have to either write about or talk about. I’m feeling the need to write this one though, so here goes:

Christ had to choose to live a sinless life. He had to choose the Cross. We have to choose to follow Him. NO ONE has the right to force us to decide one way or the other on that choice.

If you’re familiar with the Bible – or even if you’ve seen the movie The Passion – you may be familiar with the story of the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus of Nazareth literally begged his Father to remove the burden of Golgotha from him – but chose to submit to his Father’s will regardless. This was a son BEGGING his dad not to order him to die, and a dad knowing that there was no other way to save EVERYONE than for his own son to die. In the entire Bible, it is the saddest, most poignant scene – and one of the scenes where the fate of the entire human race – past, present, and future – literally hung in the balance.

But Isaiah knew all about this. Indeed, Isaiah was told that Immanuel – “God with us” – would face a choice every day of his life to choose good or evil. According to Isaiah 7:15, “Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know evil and choose the good.” Christ had to experience evil so that he could truly experience the human condition, and he still had to make the choice to choose good.

We don’t know what Jesus of Nazareth experienced as a child or young adult. We can glean a few facts from history that he more than likely saw people he knew crucified by the Roman governtment occupying the land he lived in. Some of those may have been killed for doing things that were perfectly within their religious views, but outside Roman law. We know that he probably saw all manner of decadence and evil being supported by the Romans and maybe even some of his own people – after all, he grew up in what we would probably term as the “other side of the tracks” today. From the Bible, We know the story of his birth, but after that we are given only that his parents went to Jerusalem every year for passover, with one year – when he was 12 years old – having a bit of detail. That can be found in Luke 2:41-52. Essentially, while in Jerusalem that year, Jesus went and spoke to the adults in the local church who were absolutely astounded that such a young boy could know so much about the Torah. After that, we see in verse 52 that Jesus grew both in wisdom and in renown, and men began to trust him.

The next thing we know though, Jesus shows up at the river where his cousin, John the Baptist, is preaching and baptizing people in the name of the one who is to come. Jesus chooses to get baptized over the initial objections of the Baptist, and his Father rewards that choice by audibly calling out from Heaven “You are my beloved Son, in you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22)

Next, Jesus faced a period of ourtight testing. For 40 days in the desert, he was tempted to choose evil just a single time over and over and over – and chose good every single time. He didn’t grow weary of the trial and finally give in just to get it over with. Had he done so, we would all be doomed to Hell right now, as would every single human throughout history.

We don’t know that Jesus of Nazareth knew that the fate of the world hung in the balance of every decision he made in regards to good and evil. That is a theological question that I suspect we won’t find out until we can ask him ourselves.

But we do know that those choices were his and his alone. We know that he was separated from every outside influence for a time, and during that time was tested repeatedly yet never failed. We know that ultimately, he faced Gethsemane and had to choose for himself whether to live for himself or to die for us.

Not even his Father – God, the Father, who literally holds power over every single thing in existence – could make that choice for him. Not even his Father dictated to him which way he should choose.

The choice was entirely his own.

Flash forward roughly 2,000 years or so, to our lives. We face the same choices between good and evil every day. In many places around the world, even in the US to a lesser extent, people literally have to make the choice to live for themselves or die for Christ even as I type this. God the Father, who still literally holds power over every single thing in existence – does not make that choice for us, his most precious creation. God the Father still does not dictate to us which way we should choose.

Why then do we humans try to dictate to each other which way we should choose?

Joshua, one of the first leaders of Israel, once said “Choose this day whom you wil serve”. He said it something like 4,000 years ago, and it remains the choice each of us have every single day.

Choose. This day. Whom. You will serve.

God and Government

Fair warning: This post is aimed squarely at judeo-christian theocrats. Those of other faiths, please continue reading as this should be enlightening, this statement is simply fair warning that this post quotes extensively from the Bible, particularly 1 Samuel 8.
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